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Delayed Presidential Elections in Lebanon Create Concern


Lebanon has postponed presidential elections twice in the past two months. A group of Christian bishops in Lebanon worries that the election deadlock is affecting national unity. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the United States is also concerned.

In about two weeks, an election is supposed to take place here in Lebanon. President Emil Lahoud's term ends on November 24.

But Lebanon is a nation beset with conflict, past and present: bombings, street violence, political assassination.

One Beirut resident expressed hope. "We hope the international tribunal will put a stop to political assassinations," he said.

Now, Lebanon's Maronite Christian bishops are warning that the nation's political deadlock threatens national unity. The bishops say Lebanon faces a crisis because the ruling coalition and the opposition refuse to compromise.

Lebanon's parliament has twice postponed a vote on a new president in order to give rival factions more time to agree on a candidate.

The U.S. and its allies have long faulted Syria for what they say is its constant interference in neighboring Lebanon. Syria rejects that.

Wednesday, President Bush held a joint news conference with the French president and said he was comfortable with France's effort to break Lebanon's political deadlock by engaging in direct talks with Syria. He said he hopes democracy prevails.

"I want Lebanon to serve as an example for the Palestinians, to show them what's possible. I believe in a two-state solution. I believe there ought to be two states living side by side in peace," said President Bush.

Assistant Secretary of State David Welch spoke in a similar vein in an appearance before a House subcommittee. "[The Lebanese] need a president who's committed to defending their security and sovereignty," said Welch. "Such a person doesn't need to be against anyone, but should be for Lebanon."

Welch said the U.S. will not endorse any specific candidate, but will push for free, fair and on-time presidential elections.

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